New EU rules proposed for safer, longer aerodynamic trucks 16 April 2013

The European Commission proposed new rules yesterday (15 April 2013) to allow manufacturers to develop radically more aerodynamic tractor units, aimed at reducing fuel consumption by a further 7—10%.

Other benefits cited by the EC include a consequent additional cut in greenhouse gas emissions and improved safety for vulnerable road users.

Importantly, the proposal would allow, for the first time, cab-over-engine trucks with rounded nose cones, as well as the use of aerodynamic 'boat tails' at the rear of semi-trailers.

Commission vice-president Siim Kallas, who is responsible for transport, says that the new measures would also result in some €5,000 savings per year in fuel costs for a typical long-haul combination covering 100,000 km.

Additionally, he says, drivers' field of vision will be significantly improved, helping to save the lives of an estimated 300 to 500 pedestrians and cyclists every year.

"A brick is the least aerodynamic shape you can imagine," explains Kallas. "That's why we need to improve the shape of the lorries on our roads."

And he adds: "These changes make road transport cleaner and safer. They will reduce hauliers' fuel bills and give European manufacturers a head-start in designing the truck of the future, a greener truck for the global market."

The rules setting the specifications for heavy goods vehicles date back to 1996 (Directive 96/53/EC), and the EC believes they now need to be updated to take account of technological developments.

Other changes envisaged include more consistent controls and reduced road damage. Kallas refers to an estimated "up to one third" of controlled vehicles being overloaded, causing damage to roads and compromising safety.

Hence, on-board weighing systems – linked to the digital tachograph and weigh-in-motion stations on the main roads – will allow for more consistent controls from country to country. Overweighting of trucks, he says, currently costs an estimated €950 million per year to the taxpayer.

The current proposal must be adopted by the European Parliament and member states before becoming law, so new shaped aerodynamic trucks won't be around on European roads until 2018—2020.

And they won't be around at all in the UK unless European guidance, assuming it goes through, is accepted here. No member state is obliged to authorise the use of longer vehicles, if they do not deem them appropriate.

However, the guidance, as currently cast, indicates that the use of longer vehicles can be authorised by adjacent member states, as long as it remains restricted to transport between them, and does not significantly affect international competition.

Brian Tinham

Related Companies
European Commission- Joint Research Centre

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